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Reasons you may get a sunburn despite wearing sunscreen and how to treat it

June 30, 2019
person getting sunburnt

With summer in full swing, more people are spending time enjoying the outdoor sunshine. Unfortunately, most of us have also experienced the results of enjoying a little too much sun and not enough sunscreen.  Everyone knows to lather on sunscreen if spending a significant time outdoors, especially at the beach. However, did you still get a sunburn despite wearing sunscreen? Not only is it painful, it’s extremely frustrating when you believed proper precautions were taken.

Below are some reasons you can burn despite wearing sunscreen:

  1. Using spray sunscreen. The appeal of spray sunscreen is obvious; it’s easier and more convenient. However, there is no way to make sure you’ve covered every inch of your skin. Lotions and solid sticks require you to run them into the skin, which makes you cognizant of areas that have and haven’t been covered.
  1. You’re using the wrong SPF. Just because your sunscreen is a thick lotion, it does not mean that it has a good SPF. SPFs with zinc oxide and titanium oxide formulas create a barrier on your skin and block the sun’s rays.
  1. You’re not reapplying sunscreen often enough. You should reapply your sunscreen, no matter the SPF, every two hours.  Even though an SPF 30 can give you up to 300 minutes before you burn, this number can change depending on the UV index each day. Also, lighter skin tones should apply more frequently.

The best ways to treat a sunburn:

  1. Get out of the sun. It can take several hours for the full damage to show itself. So at the first sign, go indoors, under an umbrella, or find some shade.
  2. Cool it down. Take a cool shower or bath, but not for too long, which can cause drying of the skin. Continue to cool the burn area with cold compresses. You can use ice to make ice water for a cold compress, but don’t apply ice directly to the sunburn.
  3. Moisturize. Use a gentle moisturizing lotion (but not petroleum or oil-based ointments, which can trap the heat and make the burn worse). Repeat several times a day over several days to prevent peeling.
  4. Decrease inflammation. Take an ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin, to help with discomfort and inflammation. Aloe Vera may also help soothe mild burns.
  5. Replenish fluids/stay hydrated. Burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body, so you may become dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water to aid in healing.

Seek medical care if:

  1. You have severe blistering over a large portion of the body.
  2. You have a fever and chills.
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